Sunday, November 29, 2015

Do I Need to Attend Manager’s Party?

Remember my company’s HR Manager; the owner's family friend who personally attacked me, has caused problems in my department for years and was the impetus for my strength challenge. Well she is back at it again. The other day she called me into her office to complain about my boss and the employee we share. She proceeded to say how unhappy the owners are with both of them and that they were going to have a serious talk with my boss about his attitude along with my employee’s performance. Also, in the New Year my awesome new part-time employee is going to be working for her instead of me and I will be stuck with the employee she doesn't like full-time. Oh and by the way she is having a party at her home for all the corporate managers and their spouses in December. She thinks it will be a good opportunity for all of us to meet outside of work and that it will help with team building which our management staff desperately needs.

My head began to spin. I went back to my office and tried to work, but kept thinking my boss, who has been with the company 30+ years, was going to say to heck with this B.S. and retire. How will I manage if he leaves? I wondered down the hall into our operations manager’s office. Our HR manager also has issues with him, but feels she now has him wrapped around her finger. I told him this and relayed the entire conversation to him. He said, "It is all a lie."  None of this is going to happen; the owners aren’t going to talk to my boss, they aren't upset with him or with my employee and they would never allow my new part-time employee to be transferred from accounting to HR. 

I started to feel better and got up to leave saying, “I don’t think I’m up to going to her party.” Surprisingly he already knew about the party and had even discussed it with one of our owners. The owner is not fond of these types of events, because other employees hear of them, think they are company events and feel excluded. He advised our operation’s manager who also doesn’t want to attend, to have his wife drive and get drunk on our HR manager’s booze. The operations manager recommended I do the same.

In my fitness class that night, I couldn’t help but vent about my day. As I rattled off my list of complaints, one of my gym mates kept interjecting incredibly intelligent comments. Finally, I asked her where she worked.  She was self-employed, a writer and a leadership instructor. Who was she? Susan Marshall of the Backbone Institute.

I now know how I will respond when I meet someone I admire in person – I become a blubbering idiot. I read Susan’s column every month in Wisconsin Woman Magazine. Her October column "Good News About You" is currently sitting on my night stand with the following paragraph underlined:
Aggressive people are no more confident than you are. However, they have learned how to use their voices, posture and position to get what they want. When you understand this and refuse to be bullied by it, you gain freedom to go about your business in a professional manner. You need not try to change them, but you don’t need to be cowed by them either.
As to the holiday party, I still wanted to decline, but was concerned I would be missing out on the team building. Will not going be a bad career move?

 “NO," Susan replied, "Not going is called setting boundaries.”

Susan Marshall’s book Of Beauty and Substance: A Backbone Guide for Womenhas been on my reading list since I first heard of it. I went home and ordered a copy.

Have you been invited to a co-worker's house party you dreaded attending? Did you go?

Note, I am an Amazon affiliate.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

My Year in Nonfiction - 2015

Woo-Hoo – it’s nonfiction November!

I’ve been reading nonfiction almost exclusively for several years now, so I am excited Kim, Becca, Lu, and Katie are hosting Nonfiction November - a month dedicated to reading and celebrating nonfiction - again this year.

This week Kim of Sophisticated Dorkiness asks about our year in reading. I’ve read 17 nonfiction books to-date in 2015. Here they are in chronological order along with my opinions:

French Women Don't Get Facelifts: The Secret of Aging with Style & Attitudeby Mireille Guiliano
Intrigued by the title, I picked this one up from the library on a whim. I had read Guiliano's previous book French Women Don't Get Fatseveral years earlier and was looking for a book dedicated to appearance. Unfortunately, this book was mostly a recap of her previous work and was disappointing.

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Businessby Charles Duhigg
I enjoyed this one while reading, but no longer remember much of it - except for the horrible story of casinos taking advantage of a woman with a gambling addiction.

Make the Bread, Buy the Butter: What You Should and Shouldn't Cook from Scratch--Over 120 Recipes for the Best Homemade Foodsby Jennifer Reese 
I read this one for my live healthy on a budget challenge. Despite being entertaining and informative, I never made a single recipe from the book.

Drop Dead Healthy: One Man's Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection by A. J. Jacobs
This is another book that wasn’t what I was looking for. I wanted practical, researched health tips, instead this book read like a gimmick.

Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gainby Portia de Rossi
A must read for anyone wanting to learn what it is like to have an eating disorder. De Rossi provides an honest account of what was going on inside her head while suffering from anorexia and bulimia.

Ride of Your Life: A Coast-to-Coast Guide to Finding Inner Peaceby Ran Zilca
This one offered good advice, but I was left wanting more.

Buying In: What We Buy and Who We Are by Rob Walker
A bit dated, but still informative.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler
I know many of you loved this book, but it didn’t work for me and I now find Amy Poehler annoying. I was looking for more of a feminist manifesto. It seemed to me Amy didn’t really want to write this book and only did so because she couldn’t find a way to get out of it. I preferred Tina Fey’s Bossypants.

The Culture Code: An Ingenious Way to Understand Why People Around the World Live and Buy as They Doby Clotaire Rapaille
I don’t have any comments on this one because I can’t remember anything of substance from this book.

Face It: What Women Really Feel as Their Looks Change and What to Do about Itby Vivian Diller Ph.D.
I read this one after spotting it on a list of recommended reading for a female mid-life crisis. It was a decent book written by a psychologist that deals with understanding the emotions women experience as we age. (To be honest, so far I'm not too concerned about my aging looks).

The Power of No: Because One Little Word Can Bring Health, Abundance, and Happiness by James Altucher
I read this over the summer when I was feeling overwhelmed at work. I wasn’t expecting it to offer anything new and didn’t plan on finishing it, so I was surprised by how helpful it actually was.

Triumph of the Heart: Forgiveness in an Unforgiving World by Megan Feldman Bettencourt
I received this book in exchange for an honest review. This was a great study of forgiveness.

Your Life Calling: Reimagining the Rest of Your Life by Jane Pauley
This book was a light and somewhat informative book on reinvention.

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
This is the best book I've read all year and have been recommending it to everyone. In addition to teaching me about racial history and the great migration, it provided an eye-opening lesson on living in the moment. This is the book I think about most often.

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Areby Brene Brown
This book taught me that comparison is the cause for much of our unhappiness and that creativity is the key to meaning. It is a good self-help book.

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
I read this one to learn more about living in the moment, it was helpful, but I started losing interest towards the end.

Stalin's Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyevaby Rosemary Sullivan:
I loved this book. It provided insight into Stalin, his family and life in Russia during and immediately after his regime. Life for Svetlana doesn’t necessarily get better when she defects to the US. She was looking for freedom, but wasn't prepared for our freedom of the press. The chapters she writes about Ogilvanna Wright (the wife of Frank Lloyd Wright) and Taliesin are highly entertaining and not favorable.

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwideby Nicholas D. Kristof:
I have 20 pages left to read in this book, but want to mention it because I am sure it will go down as one of the best nonfiction books I’ve ever read.

This process of listing my year of books has been an enlightening experience. I see a pattern of trying to come to terms with my age, searching for help in dealing with work stress and attempting to figure out what to do next. I also realized I don’t want to write about health and have abandoned my life healthy challenge. I am hoping reading Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide is the beginning of a new direction for me.

Books from this list I’ve recommended the most:
The Warmth of Other Suns and Stalin’s Daughter.

What nonfiction topic do you not read enough of?
I am always reading to learn something new or to fulfill a book challenge I've set for myself or to write a review I’ve committed to. I’d like to spend more time reading nonfiction - that reads like fiction  - with the sole purpose being to read a really good book.

My reading picks for nonfiction November are:

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai

Limbo: Blue-Collar Roots, White-Collar Dreamsby Alfred Lubrano

What are you reading for Nonfiction November? What was your favorite nonfiction read this year?

Please Note, I am an Amazon Affiliate

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Travel the World in Books Readathon Oct 2015, Day 11: Sharing our Real Life Travel Experiences

Our Travel the World in Books Readathon is a chance to read books to learn about different cultures and countries other than your own. Join us October 18-31, 2015 to expand your horizons, travel the world in books and let publishers know #WeNeedDiverseBooks.
Today is day 11 of our Travel the World in Books Readathon.  I hope you are all having a fabulous time reading books from around the world. I finished reading Rosemary Sullivan's book Stalin's Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva, so I've left Russia and traveled to Pakistan where I am now reading Malalya Yousafzai's book I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban. Where have you spent your readathon travels?

If you haven’t heard, our readathon goal is quite get you reading more about other countries and cultures than your own. It's both a learning opportunity and a great excuse to cozy up with a good book and travel to places you might not otherwise be able to visit! My fabulous co-hosts (CHANGE LINKS FOR YOUR OTHER CO-HOSTS) Becca, Tanya, Lucy, Aloi and I have a great couple of weeks in store for you, check out the entire schedule of events here.


Today Heather of Based on a True Story is hosting our mini-challenge: displaying books and props that represent specific countries.  For example display your favorite books from France with a replica of the Eiffel tower. Head on over to Heather's blog to share your books and props.

Daily Discussion Posts

Travel the World in Books Readathon, Oct. 18-31, 2015. Daily discussion topics to get you talking about your favorite world books, authors, genres and places to visit. This year we want to get YOU talking about your favorite books, authors, genres, and characters. Every day we'll have a different topic of discussion. You can write a new blog post, link up a couple of old posts that are pertinent to the topic and/or leave comments answering our questions. Linkups will be open through 11/7/15 ( a week after the readathon ends to give you plenty of time to write a new post if you want).

Today's discussion topic:  travel post, somewhere you’ve been or a bucket list of places you’d like to go

Instagram Photo Challenge

I LOVE Instagram. Join us for our Instagram challenge for our Travel the World in Books Readathon, using our new shorter #TTWIBRAT hashtag. Be sure to follow your hosts on Instagram too: TanyaBecca, Lucy and Aloi . Tag each day's photos with the #TTWIBRAT hashtag. Don't worry if you miss a day, just share and tag the photo with #TTWIBRAT anytime! Today, head over and share a TRAVEL PHOTO, A PLACE YOU’VE BEEN IN REAL LIFE, HAVE LIVED OR WOULD LIKE TO GO . Have fun and I'll see you on Instagram!  [caption id="attachment_7107" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Travel the World in Books Readathon Instagram Photo Challenge. Join us October 18-31, 2015 for the readathon and share pictures of your favorite books and authors from around the world. Image courtesy of potowizard at[/caption]


Travel the World in Books Readathon Oct 2015 Giveaways! Sign up and enter to win one of 18 great books from around the world. You must be 18 years or older and a registered participant to be eligible for these giveaways. See the giveaways page for complete rules. Good luck and enjoy traveling the world in books!
Want to know more about our Travel the World in Books Readathon? Sign up here, check out our schedule of events, linkup your goals if you like and travel the world in books with us!  Want to continue the reading and traveling fun all year long? Sign up for our no-stress Travel the World in Books Reading Challenge and our Goodreads group too.

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Friday, October 23, 2015

My 5 Favorite Reading Spots in Amsterdam

Photos courtesy of Kate from The Diary of an Urban Housewife

Today the Travel the World in Books Readathon is traveling to Amsterdam where Kate from The Diary of an Urban Housewife shares her 5 favorite reading spots.  Enjoy:

Amsterdam is a beautiful city, I am so grateful that as an expat I have had the wonderful opportunity to live here. In case you don't know me, I am Kate, I own the blog The Diary of an Urban Housewife. I use that platform to record everything from our daily life to the wonderful travels we get to experience living all the way over in Europe. I know this sweet little city inside and out and learn something new about it everyday. The city is constantly alive, and some of my favorite haunts are unique, cozy, and perfect for settling in with a good book and an ice cold water or some mulled wine...depending on the season of course! So, without further ado I present my five favorite reading spots in Amsterdam... Side note: I also consider these "must visits" if you come to Amsterdam on a trip.
  1. Amstel Park.

    This is just across the street from my home. In the spring and summer it is blooming with gorgeous flowers, and in the fall the leaves are changing colors. There are always people around, but it has so many nice areas where you can lay down a blanket or sit on a bench and you feel completely secluded. You would almost think you are completely alone, not smack in the middle of the city with dozens of people running around the park.
  2. Cafe Zuiver.

    I discovered this one day after having lunch with my husband, it is just a block from his office. They have delicious coffee and the cutest atmosphere, with a wonderful garden out back that is wonderful on a sunny day whether it is hot or cold!
  3. Cafe 't Hooischip.

    This is an old Dutch brown bar....they serve great gluhwein (mulled wine) and they have one of the best apple pies in the city. It is directly across the street from the National Ballet and Opera so it is the perfect place to go after a free Tuesday lunch concert!
  4. Amsterdam Central Station Starbucks or Rembrandtplein Starbucks.

    As an expat, sometimes you just need a little bit of home. There are days when you are just tired from being an expat and miss home..well, a Starbucks is always a little bit of America on international soil. You can get a drip coffee, a flavoured latte, or a caramel hot cocoa without everyone thinking you are insane. Plus, you can sit and relax for as long as you want because that is how Starbucks rolls! These two places are particularly cozy because the one at Centraal Station is located just off the Ij so you can see the ferries and boats coming as you relax and get in to a good book, the one at Rembrandtplein is nice because you can often meet up with other expats who are doing the same as you-looking for a little bit of relaxation and reading.
  5. De Koffieschenkerij.

    This is actually located in the Red Light District in Amsterdam, but it is full of history. It is attached to the Oude Kerk which is the church the red light district was built around. This is by far my favorite place to read and have coffee as it radiates history. In fact, in the back room of this coffee shop they say is where Rembrandt met his wife Saskia, doesn't get much cooler than that!
These are just a few of my favorite places to get out of the house and read, it can be such a cozy experience to find a cozy corner in a cafe. Where is your favorite place to read when you want to get out of the house?

About Kate:

Kate is an American expat living in Amsterdam, Netherlands. She moved abroad with her husband and 15 year old daughter. Kate loves to spend her days reading, cooking, crafting, and if not at home touring Amsterdam and has made it her personal goal to visit every museum possible in a city known for its museums. In her spare time Kate loves to write about her travels on her blog, The Diary of an Urban Housewife. This is not only a platform to record everything that happens, but an outlet to help other travelers, and especially other expats if they are considering coming to the Netherlands.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Announcing the 2nd Travel the World in Books Readathon

"Image courtesy of potowizard at"

Last year Becca of I'm Lost in Books, Tanya of Mom's Small Victories and I created a challenge to read more books from around the world. You can learn about how to sign up for the challenge and about my challenge goals here. Along with the challenge, we also hosted a Readathon giving everyone an opportunity to read and discuss books that take place in countries other than their own.

Today I am delighted to announce the readathon is back for a 2nd year. We’ve extended it to two weeks to provide more reading and discussion time. We’ve also added two great co-hosts. Tanya, Becca, Lucy and Aloi and I have come up with some great activities, check out the entire schedule of events here.

The goals for the Readathon are simple: read books that take place in countries other than your own.

Traveling around the world through books has always been a passion of mine. I continue to be amazed by how little some people know about geography and cultures outside of their community.
Here are some of my recent conversations with casual acquaintances:

My friend is being transferred to Belgium. Where is that? Somewhere in Europe right. (This statement was more shocking when I learned this person was a teacher).

I’d never go on a safari in Africa. I’m afraid I’d contact Ebola. See Ebola fears crippling Africa's safari industry.

My friend is interning in a third world country in South America. I think it is Portugal. When I say that doesn’t sound right, she texts a friend who informs her it is Paraguay.

I currently live in Wisconsin and read mostly nonfiction. My goals for the readathon are as follows:

1. Finish reading Rosemary Sullivan's book Stalin's Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva. This book takes place in Russia and the U.S. It also touches on Switzerland, India and England.

2. Finish reading Nicholas D. Kristof's book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide which has been on my reading list for years. It provides insight into several countries where women struggle to receive adequate health care and basic human rights.

3. Start reading Malala Yousafzai's book I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban which is also the discussion pick for Nonfiction November.

4. While preparing this post, I realized I’ve never written a post summarizing the nonfiction books I’ve read and recommend by country, so I plan to do so. Watch for it Tuesday, October 27th.

5. Participate in the evening twitter chat.

Are you participating in the Travel the World in Books Readathon? What books do you plan to read?

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Getting Back into Blogging

I received an email this week from a fellow blogger asking if I had quit blogging. My original plan was to take a week off. Somehow that week turned into two and the next thing I know I hadn’t blogged since August. To get back into the swing of things I’ve decided to provide an update. Here is my current status:


I am finally getting caught up at after an employee in my department resigned earlier this year. We were both working 40+ hours per week, so after she left my workload became overwhelming as I attempted to cover both positions. Initially, we brought in a temp who did not work out and were disappointed to learn she had asked the agency to be reassigned two full weeks before they felt the need to share that information with us. During that period she created an incredible mess; incorrect postings, duplicate payments and from what we surmise - throwing her mail away. We are still making corrections. We recently hired a full-time and a part-time employee who I am confident will be great hires.


I cancelled my gym membership and joined Jazzercise. With my increased work-load I was no longer able to attend the fitness classes I enjoyed at my old gym. Feeling depressed and lethargic, I asked a former gym member how she was liking Jazzercise. She loved it and invited me to a class. Impressed with the class variety, schedule, fitness instructors, location and the price (I receive a discount through my medical insurance) I joined and am back to working out consistently.


Since my last post I finished reading Isabelle Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration. I had an “aha moment” when Wilkerson mentioned of the three lives she followed for the great migration she considered Ida Mae the happiest. Ida Mae also lived the longest. Instead of living with regrets or trying to be someone she was not she accepted who she was and lived in the moment. I have spent years living in the future – retired, self-employed or anywhere but at work. This book inspired me to read Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brene Brown. Both books helped pull me out of my workplace funk and back to a more balanced state mind.

Travel the World in Books read-a-thon: The Travel the World in Book's team has chosen October 18-31st for this year’s read-a-thon. I’m already compiling a list of books and have chosen Rosemary Sullivan's book Stalin's Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva as my first read. Stay tuned for more information on the read-a-thon and our challenge.

Dog Update:
Buck, our golden retriever, was diagnosed with lymphoma earlier this year. After deciding against chemotherapy, our vet prescribed a steroid regimen and told us to begin preparing for his demise. After a rocky couple of months, I am happy to report yesterday was Buck’s 12th birthday. We celebrated with lots of photos and birthday treats. He seemed to enjoy himself and now when someone says the word birthday he stands by the treat jar.

In the spirit of a friend’s resent trip to Tuscany we watched Under the Tuscan Sun last night. This was one of those rare instances where I enjoyed the movie more than the book. The movie is quite different in that Francis is portrayed as single while in actuality she is married and bought the home in Tuscany with her husband.

Have you ever taken a lengthy break from blogging? Did you miss it? What brought you back?

Please Note, I am an Amazon Affiliate

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Triumph of the Heart: Forgiveness in an Unforgiving World

Motivation for Reading:
I received an advance copy of Megan Feldman Bettencourt's book Triumph of the Heart: Forgiveness in an Unforgiving Worldin exchange for an honest review.

What is Triumph of the Heart: Forgiveness in an Unforgiving World about?
At age 33, Megan Feldman Bettencourt was struggling to pay her bills and reeling from yet another break-up. Her feelings of disillusionment, pain, and anger seemed completely justified to her. Then she met Azim. Azim had forgiven the man who killed his only son, and even befriended the killer’s family. Compelled by this amazing story, Megan set out to understand our capacity to forgive. 

In Triumph of the Heart: Forgiveness in an Unforgiving  Megan searches for what it means to forgive. The journey takes her from recovered addicts who restarted their lives by seeking forgiveness, to a Baltimore principal who used forgiveness techniques to eradicate violence in her school, to genocide survivors in Rwanda who forgave the people who killed their families. Along the way, practicing forgiveness alters Megan’s life in ways she never expected.

My Thoughts:
Initially, I wasn’t sure I wanted to read another self-help book especially one about forgiveness, but the book seemed to fit the reading projects I’ve been working on: to become a stronger person and to be savvier, so I decided to accept the advance copy. I am so glad I did. 

Triumph of the Heart is more than a self-help book, it is a beautifully written study of forgiveness. Many of us have difficulty forgiving or letting go of past grievances. In an attempt to understand and forgive her own grudges, Feldman examines others who were able to forgive; the daughter who forgives her father who raped her as a young girl, a man forgives the murderer of his son, a husband forgives his cheating spouse and Rwandan genocide survivors who forgave the people who killed their families are just a few.

Here is a sampling of what I learned:
- It's hard to be ruminating about how someone hurt you or disappointed you 10 years ago, or five years ago or one year ago when you're being mindful.

- Everyone is dealing with something. We have to remember that we never know what people are dealing with and why they're acting a certain way. For the most part, people are doing the best they can with what they have.

- When we are angry with our enemy and in the midst of an adrenaline rush we just want to be right and have difficulty slowing down to understand their side of the story.

-The forgiveness process is similar to the grief process; both aim for acceptance and vary in duration and intensity for each person.

Many of the people Feldman profiled would go on to channel their forgiveness into create a better world.

I found Chantal Nimugire, who suffered horrific loses, abuse and betrayal during the Rwandan genocide, to be inspiring: 
For eighteen years I was healing and having memories of genocide, but after I forgave, I began to share my story and become passionate about advocating for women who suffered rape and sexual abuse. She recently began speaking to groups of widows through AVEGA, making an effort to inspire and support women who lost their husbands and children to the genocide. She’s determined to take a stand against rape as a tool of war, whether in nearby Congo and Sedan or around the world.

“We have to stand up and speak out. We have to demand a better world.” (pg. 178)
Bottom line:
Triumph of the Heart: Forgiveness in an Unforgiving World is a beautiful well researched book. If you have an interest in learning more about forgiveness I recommend reading this book.

Please Note, I am an Amazon Affiliate